Usually four questions are asked on Passover by the youngest member of the family. But with Passover coming up in two weeks, the Laurel Hill board has submitted a helluva lot more than four questions to Town Council, which reminds us of the maror, and the bitterness of those claiming to be suffering today.

It’s sad that people really do seem to be losing their keppes over this housing choices proposal, and we feel bad that our competent-and-most-definitely-underpaid Town staff is dealing with this mishegas.

(The first question posed at a recent neighborhood meeting to a member of the Planning staff was “How long have you lived there?” as if that’s at all relevant and not mildly offensive. Oy.)

The latest kvetchers live in Laurel Hill, which sent a six-page, single-spaced shpiel to Town Council and Town staff. And, these shmendriks emphasize, “…it is clear that many of these important questions and concerns remain unanswered. The Town Council owes it to the Chapel Hill community to address these questions and concerns before taking action on the LUMO text amendments because of the potential long-term impact on the Town.”

Being the kind, generous, and polite blog bloggers that we are, we have decided to take it upon ourselves to provide answers to the whole mishpocha — that is, the Laurel Hill neighbors.

These aren’t the answers that Town council members or Town staff would provide, because they’re public servants, but possibly the answers they would want to give to these meshuggeners.

The LHNA Board strongly supports efforts to create diverse and affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

The statement starts out as many in our town do: They’re apparently all for diverse and affordable housing in Chapel Hill so long as it does not impact their neighborhood.

Has the narrow definition of missing middle been effectively communicated to residents?

Yes. Do you want them to go around and smear lamb’s blood on the door of each homeowner, skipping over renters and students?

How certain is the Town that Chapel Hill residents understand that missing middle does not mean middle income?

Pretty certain.

Might the Town be considering sweeping zoning changes based on a meaning of missing middle that is widely misunderstood by Chapel Hill citizens?


Does the Town believe Chapel Hill residents understand that missing middle refers merely to a type of housing stock?

You just asked that question!

Why does production of missing middle units take priority over the other goals in the planning process, particularly the goals related to Chapel Hill’s sense of place?

Here, Laurel Hill’s nudniks reference two guiding statements from the December 2020 update to the Future Land Use Map:

  • Guiding Statement 4 to “Promote distinctive, safe, and attractive neighborhoods;” and
  • Guiding Statement 9 to “Preserve and maintain Chapel Hill’s appearance and create the quality of design and development the Town desires.”

The thing is, we think that allowing missing middle housing helps promote both of these guiding statements! Do you think your neighborhoods will not be safe with additional housing types? If so, why do you think that? (Sorry, I know that’s not an answer, it’s a question).

Did the petition to promote missing middle units short-circuit the normal long-term comprehensive land use planning process by forcing the Planning Department to focus on missing middle housing to the exclusion of other objectives?

No, you kibitzers, this is a fully supportive of the Town’s plan.

Can the planning staff recommend actions the Town could take that would make meaningful progress toward housing affordability and diversity while also being sensitive to the other goals of town planning and development, especially those goals related to protecting Chapel Hill’s sense of place? Although the Laurel Hill Neighborhood Association is opposed to the current version of the LUMO proposal, we would be eager to engage in meaningful initiatives to improve affordability and diversity and would strongly support Town efforts to do so.

They are taking actions! Your setback rules are staying the same. Height maximums are unchanged. Tree canopy protections are increasing! You haven’t kvetched about the dimensional requirements for new development as applied to single-family homes, but suddenly they’re a problem when triplexes enter the conversation? And let’s be clear, what you’re saying is you’re happy to support your tax dollars being spent on affordable housing and letting some more poor people live here, but so long as it keeps Laurel Hill inviolable.

Why does the LUMO rezoning proposal not conform to Guiding Statement 4? (Ed. note: specifically this objective “A. Protect and preserve the Town’s historic neighborhoods as well as its Neighborhood Conservation Districts.”)

The historic district regulations will still apply, including this regulation “No exterior portion of any building or other structure (including masonry walls, fences, light fixtures, steps and pavement, or other appurtenant features), or any above ground utility structure, or any type of outdoor advertising sign shall be erected, altered, restored, moved, or demolished within the historic district until an application for a certificate of appropriateness as to exterior architectural features has been approved. For purposes of this article, “exterior architectural features” shall include the architectural style, general design, and general arrangement of the exterior of a building or other structure, including the kind and texture of the building material, the size and scale of the building, and the type and style of all windows, doors, light fixtures, signs, and other appurtenant fixtures. In the case of outdoor advertising signs, “exterior architectural features” shall be construed to mean the style, material, size, and location of all such signs.”

Does the Town Council realize the rezoning would create incentives to tear down historic structures and replace them with rental units?

Have you seen property values in the historic district? Who do you think is going to be taking the time to buy those expensive properties, tear them down, and build them up again in a way that complies with the Town’s historic district regulations? Maybe a shmendrik.

Does the Town Council understand that historic neighborhoods are a community asset valued by Chapel Hill’s residents who appreciate their town’s sense of place?

Have you seen how much staff time and effort goes into supporting the Historic District Commission and projects in historic districts? Oy gevalt, they understand it.

Both historic neighborhoods and Neighborhood Conservation Districts (NCDs) are specifically listed by Guiding Statement 4 as worthy of protection and preservation. What is the rationale for exempting one type of neighborhood (NCDs) from the rezoning but not the other (historic neighborhoods)?

NCDs and historic neighborhoods both have protections that the housing choices proposal are not impacting. For NCDs, it is the specific standards including in the NCD ordinance. For historic neighborhoods, it is the protections of the historic district. Both sets of protections remain, but neither is entitled to be frozen in amber.

Also, please let the Town Council know that: 1) under the LUMO proposal, National Register Historic Districts, like Rocky Ridge Farm, would likely lose their historic designation because of tear-downs related to the financial incentives under the proposal; and 2) Chapel Hill could lose its status as a Certified Local Government for using the financial incentives under the LUMO proposal to encourage redevelopment of its historic districts.

Not a question, but 1) You can’t assert that something is “likely” when you haven’t shown a scintilla of evidence that landowners are going to be flocking to purchase $1 million+ homes in the area and tearing them down for duplexes. 2) That makes no sense. What financial incentives are you talking about?

Why does the town have a planning process if the guidance from that process is disregarded on a decision so important, and affecting so many people?

This is a common misconception that we hear from many loud opponents to projects in Chapel Hill. “I OPPOSE AND IF YOU DO NOT LISTEN TO MEEEEEEE YOU ARE IGNORING YOUR CITIZENS!” The fact that certain groups of homeowners in Chapel Hill neighborhoods (and not all the homeowners, either!) feel threatened enough to loudly proclaim their opposition to a proposal does not mean that citizen input is being disregarded, or even that your point of view has majority support.

Why should citizens spend time and effort participating in Town planning meetings if the guidance based on the outcome of those meetings is ignored on matters of such importance?

This is the same question you just asked! Many proposals that blog bloggers have supported have been rejected by our elected officials, and not once did we think they were ignoring us. We thought they might be misguided, yes, but not ignoring us. What chutzpah!

The Town’s major justification for multi-family housing is a global “housing crisis.” In making this justification, is the Town taking into account the 5,000 new housing units just built, under construction, or approved for development?

That’s a wild number that came out of your tuchus.

In the Town Memo “Results from Stakeholder Interviews and Focus Groups for the Complete Communities Strategy” dated 10/25/22, Hurley-Franks & Associates conducted stakeholder consultations with the goal to “understand diverse perspectives in the community about where and how to build housing.” The stakeholders from two rounds of interviews came from eight categories (Pedestrians, Transit, Cycling and Greenways, Housing and Quality of Life Advocates, Equity Advocates, Environmental Interests, Development, Business and Institutional Interests, a Renter, and a UNC student). Why wasn’t there a category to get perspectives from stakeholders that live in historic districts?

One of the interviewed stakeholders lived in the historic district for 16 years and contributed pictures to the updated Historic District Design Guidelines.

Buildings described in the LUMO amendment are portrayed as being built on lot sizes that are well below the median lot size in TOCH. Does this mean that under the provisions of the LUMO amendment lots in TOCH will not only have torn down and rebuilt housing, but also subdivided lots?

It’s possible! Sometimes people like to live in condos. But also you need to read the regulations to see whether it would even be possible to subdivide lots. (We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again, we’ll probably repeat it in the future, most of the standards that apply in the districts are not changing, including minimum lot sizes.)

TOCH Staff 2/9/23 presentation “Purpose of the Text Amendment” calls for increased diversity, production, more “infill” and density. Since these objectives would make Chapel Hill more like Durham and Raleigh, why do we wish to abandon the characteristics that make Chapel Hill an appealing alternative to Durham and Raleigh?

In what ways does this make Chapel Hill more like Durham and Raleigh, aside from providing more places for people to live (which Durham and Raleigh do have, because they are larger?)

TOCH Staff Chart “Opportunities to Increase Missing Middle Housing” states that the LUMO amendment would “Eliminate density maximums and indicates that 27.9 dwelling units implemented as fourplexes could be allowed on a 1-acre lot in R1. Is it not true that such density is totally out of keeping with all current R1 neighborhoods?

For a change, we’ll give a serious answer here. The minimum lot size in R-1 is 17,000 square feet, so you can fit about two and a half lots in one acre. Therefore, you could only fit a maximum of about 10 dwelling units in an acre in R-1. No idea where that 27.9 figure comes from.

Have Raleigh and Durham determined income needs for their “Missing Middle”? What are the income needs for those likely to buy Chapel Hill missing middle housing?

Aha! Earlier you were complaining that people didn’t understand “missing middle” referred to building form and not income level. Here you’re asking an income question. Nice attempt to trick us.

How does the LUMO Amendment ensure that the new housing that arises because of the proposed changes does not become student housing in neighborhoods closest to the university rather than missing middle housing?

Students need housing too. Graduate students, medical students, medical residents, medical fellows, visiting scholars…..

Has the town attorney issued an opinion that the LUMO Amendment as proposed does not conflict with local, state, or Federal statutes with respect to the process the town must go through to rezone per the LUMO Amendment? If not, we request the town attorney issue such an opinion on this topic to certify that the LUMO Amendment does not violate existing local, state, or Federal statutes.

No need, we have already debunked this claim, which in legal terms is a “reach.”

Specifically, how does the staff expect the Laurel Hill neighborhood to be impacted by the proposed LUMO Amendment?

You might get one or two new neighbors over the next decade.

Have any infrastructure requirements studies been conducted regarding the impact of the LUMO Amendment and if so, can you please provide those studies?

Is Buttons Road drowning in traffic these days? Are you running low on water? (Chapel Hill’s water usage went down considerably when UNC switched to using reclaimed water a decade ago — it’s actually quite a marvelous example of technology solving a problem!) What exactly are your infrastructure concerns?

Are the staff and Town Council aware of the Town’s own survey results that indicate the majority of residents oppose many of the features of the LUMO Amendment? For example: [results omitted]

We know there’s been a lot of listserv chatter asking people to fill out the survey a certain way, so we doubt it’s particularly representative of town residents.

If most residents are against many of the features of the LUMO amendment, why doesn’t the Council engage the community until a plan is reached that the majority can support?

Again, not a scientific survey.

There are more questions, but our keppes are full and we’re ready to plotz.

Geoff Green and Melody Kramer need to apologize to their Hebrew School teachers for this shtick. Featured photo by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)CC BY-SA 3.0.

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